Sad to happy.

Handling Refunds & The Consumer Response

The world tends to skew towards negative feedback over positive feedback. There are millions of random acts of kindness every day, but we usually hear about the bad, not the good. It makes you realize, in blunt terms, companies, firms, corporations, ect…, need to go out of their way to keep the consumer happy. Kill them with kindness, as I like to say.
 
Where am I going with this? Handing refunds can be one of the most daunting tasks for a corporation. Many find it difficult to gauge whether a refund is owed, or if it is not. As a business owner, you know the importance of developing and keeping a good reputation. So, you do not want to risk that reputation over one disgruntled customer. Like the general population, customers are much more likely to discuss negative experiences with friends and associates, rather than positive experiences. Negative information spreads like wildfire, both on and offline, and very few people will stop to consider they’re only getting one side of the story.
 
It as simple as this, you must implement a strategy to proactively reduce the instances in which customers may request refunds. Although, if a customer does ask for one, handle the decision as simply and politely as possible. You’re playing with fire, so don’t soak the matches in gasoline. Here are several strategies to reduce the chance of a refund request, which will also help you develop and maintain good relationships with your customers.
 

Contracts
Set out all the details of the job in writing. Taking this step, even on relatively small jobs, ensures that you and your customer understand the scope of work to be done, the materials to be used, the cost of the work and when the money is to be paid.
The contract should also spell out whether you will be responsible for removing debris and cleaning up the area when the job is finished. The customer may be entitled to hold back a certain amount of payment after the work is completed to ensure the work is completed to their satisfaction.
 

Honesty
If the customer understands the elements involved in the cost of the job, he or she is more likely to trust you to be their contractor. You may work with materials and specs regularly, but the customer doesn’t. Explain what needs to be done in language the customer can understand. If the work involves securing special permits or will require inspections as part of the process, let the customer know in advance.
In addition, let your customer know when and if you anticipate any delays in getting materials or scheduling inspections as the project continues. Make sure your customer understands that you’re often given “best case scenarios” as far as deliveries are concerned by suppliers, but that the actual delivery date can vary.
 

Availability
Let your clients know how they can reach you if they have any questions or concerns. If you’re normally out of the office during the day, either give them your cell number or let them know that they can leave a message at your office and when you normally return calls.
You can also give them your e-mail address if they’d prefer to contact you online. If the message is quite detailed, this may be the preferred way for your customer to reach out to you.
No matter how your customer decides to get in touch, let them know how long it usually takes for you to respond to messages. Most people would probably find it reasonable to hear back within one or two business days, but you can set your policy to whatever time is best for your business.
 

Customer Input
Allow the customer to view paint or stain chips with you before purchasing any products. Go with the customer to a supplier to order flooring, cabinets or other materials. These tasks may be a bit more time-consuming, but the effort will lower the risk of having the customer walk into the jobsite and deciding they don’t like something after it has already been installed.
 

Job Progresses
If a client sees something they’d like added to the job, explain that you’ll be adding another work order that both of you will have to sign. In a situation where something has obviously not been done correctly, it may be time to discuss a refund based on the terms of the contract. You may be better off redoing a small amount of the work and eating the time and expense in order to maintain a good relationship with a customer rather than creating an issue over a relatively minor fix and losing the entire contract.
So approach any disagreement with an open mind – try to understand their point of view. If you can see how they might feel justified in asking for some amount of refund, it might be wise to bite the bullet and offer a partial refund. The customer will remember the contractor who worked out an issue in what they consider to be a fair manner. And when they need work done in the future, they’re far more likely to call you.
 

All in all, if you follow these strategies, you will keep your customers happy. Additionally, those who have requested a refund, and were treated courteously by the company representatives, are more likely to tell associates about the experience. It is important to realize that a dissatisfied customer can turn into either a loyal promoter or a heavy detractor. The difference is positive word of mouth versus negative word of mouth. Handling a refund decision as simply and politely as possible can have large impacts on a company, and should not be overlooked.
 

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